Friday, May 22, 2015

Being gay isn't just about sex...so get our minds out of the gutter!

Better than sex!
Newsflash! There's more to life than sex. 

Shocker, right? What kind of gay man am I to say such a thing? I generally prefer to speak for myself only, but I'm pretty sure multi-dimensionality is something I have in common with a number of other gay men. 

The naked truth is this: There are several things I'd rather be doing right now than getting naked and having sex, like writing this blog post. A friend of mine once asked me when I'm happiest. Without hesitating, I said after a long-distance run, and when an article I'm writing starts to really come together, like right now.

Maybe I've just been having bad-to-mediocre sex all of my life, but that feeling of progress and accomplishment beats almost every orgasm I can remember...and that I can recall the specifics of so few of them speaks volumes.

It never occurred to me to consider when I'm between the sheets (not sleeping and not alone) or rolling around awkwardly on a couch as my happiest times. That didn't even enter my mind. I know I'm probably in the minority here -- not just among gay men, among men in general -- but my life isn't all about sex...not even a quarter about sex. I think about so many other things.

So do a lot of gay men, despite what Grindr might lead one to believe. (And I suspect that for many, Grindr is less about sex and more about validation and ego-massaging then most are willing to admit.) Yet perhaps because we are assigned the "gay" label largely due to our sexual activity, that becomes, for many of us and to others, the crux of our identities.

Yes, sexual preference is the major factor in determining whether someone is gay or straight, but I'm not gay solely because I have sex with men. I also connect with men emotionally in a way that I don't with women. A guy I once dated said he can tell I'm not gay just for the sex. It was one of the most astute observations anyone has ever made about me.

If heterosexuals aren't defined by sex, why are homosexuals in the eyes of so many? If I decide to stop having sex, which I did for the bulk of 2014, am I not still gay?

I know our predilection towards horniness, our portrayal in the media, and Grindr don't do the perception of gay men any favors, but the sex slant is more about being male than about being gay. Straight men are no less hung up on sex and would be doing it just as often as gay men if women would indulge them.

Some women do. That's what makes the oldest profession still such a potentially lucrative one. Straight men really keep prostitutes in business. Yet nobody thinks all straight men sleep with hookers. Nor do they think they're all potential child molesters or rapists, though we can probably safely assume that the majority of sex offenders are straight.

I recently read a headline in which someone claimed gay men all should be kept away from children? Huh? So we're all potential pedophiles because of the actions of a few Catholic priests? Do all of the straight male pedophiles in prison mean that we must be extra vigilant when straight men are with kids? 

Of course not. As with white people, straight people only have to answer for their individual actions. The increasing number of exhibitionist female celebs on Instagram and on magazine covers doesn't say anything about women in general, nor do the occasionally "leaked" sex tapes starring straight D-listers angling for a spot on the A-list. Meanwhile, gays, like blacks and other minorities, always seem to be judged cumulatively. The actions of a few determine the perception of all. It's collectivism at its most maddening.

Last week when I told the story about my encounters with the 12-year-old boy named Jeffrey, I was surprised by how strongly some people reacted to it. I actually thought it was more funny and odd than disturbing. Sure, it was somewhat disconcerting because, well, 12-year-old boys generally aren't interested in grown men who aren't their fathers or celebrities. Still, I couldn't help but think that most people assigned a sexual element to it that had more to do with me than with the kid, though he drove the entire story.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I've been attracting intrigued male and female kids for decades, ever since a six year old named Frederick approached me at Astor Hair in New York City, struck up a conversation and asked if he could sit on my lap. I told him his dad, who was getting a haircut nearby, might not appreciate that.)

If I were straight, or a woman, or if the child had been a girl, I wonder if it would have seemed as creepy and disturbing to those who know I'm gay. I'm almost certain that a young girl approaching a woman, gay or straight, in the same way, wouldn't have given anyone pause. It would be unusual but likely still deemed perfectly harmless and innocent.

The one person I told the story to who wasn't at all shocked by it had an interesting take. "He probably just wanted to be friends," she said. "He wanted to be friends because you looked different and cool." She also suggested that he might have been acting on a dare (which is actually the explanation I find most plausible, having considered it myself), or because he wants to visit the U.S. and was excited to meet an American.

She said that after reading my blog post about Jeffrey, she Googled "Jeremy cool black guy in Sydney," and I was No. 6 on the list, and No. 2 the next day. I was surprised I hadn't been No. 1 both times (Is there another black Jeremy in Sydney?) but impressed that although she'd included "black," she'd left out "gay." 

Knowing her -- and this is one of the things I love most about her -- it probably never even entered her mind.
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